Donald Trump’s defense lawyers made it vividly clear on Friday that they will pull no punches in seeking to prevent the Senate from convicting the former president on a House impeachment charge that he incited his followers to invade the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
But they’re moving fast: the defense arguments ended shortly after 3 P.M. EST, when it could have gone on for two days.
The defense team used less than a quarter of the time allotted to what the New York Times called its “incendiary” arguments.
David Schoen, one of Trump’s defense attorneys, “accused House impeachment managers of manipulating evidence in their presentation by selectively editing video footage and altering tweets,” reported the Washington Post.
Shortly afterward, a question-and-answer session began, with the two sides taking turns. Rep Joaquin Castro (D-TX) was first up for the House prosecutors.
“Donald Trump summoned the mob, he assembled a mob and he lit the flame. Everything that followed was because of his doing,” Castro said in response to a question from Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer (NY) and Dianne Feinstein (CA). “And although he could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence, he never did.”
Trump’s defense team could not answer a question on when the former president knew about the breach of the U.S. Capitol, saying the “rush” to impeach has resulted in “zero” investigation into the issue.
But responding to the same question, House Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D-U.S. V.I.) said: “This attack was on live TV. On all major networks in real-time. The president, as president, has access to intelligence information, including reports from inside the Capitol. He knew the violence that was underway.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) “reacted in disbelief to assertions from Trump’s lawyers that the president’s remarks at the Jan. 6 rally were ‘totally appropriate’ and said the Senate must act to ensure a violent insurrection at the Capitol never happens again, the Post says, adding that Raskin reminded senators of the events and rallies held by the ex-president before Jan. 6.
“Violence all over the rallies. The president cheering it on, delighting in it, reveling in it, exulting in it. Come on! How gullible do you think we are?” Raskin said, his voice rising. “We saw this happen.”
The Trump lawyers’ strategy “was a presentation of an alternate reality untethered to Jan. 6 or the Democratic arguments,” said the Huffington Post, adding that they “offered a wholly different view of Trump than the world has known for the past five years.”
In fact, at the Jan. 6 rally that became a mob that trashed the Capitol and left five people dead, Trump stirred his followers to action by using that word — “fight” — 20 times, while urging them to march to the building that most represents U.S. democracy.
“[T]hey sought to rewrite not just the narrative of his campaign to overturn the election but that of his entire presidency,” the Times said.
The defense lawyers’ presentation “unfolded after nine House prosecutors spent two days laying out a meticulous case against the former president — dramatized with never-before-seen video of the Jan. 6 riot — portraying the rampage as the direct result of Mr. Trump’s … campaign to overturn the election,” the Times said.
On Friday, Trump defender Bruce Castor contended there was no “insurrection” on Jan. 6, even though some top Republicans had used just that word.
Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen said during the Q&A period that “at no point” was Trump aware that Vice President Mike Pence was in danger from the mob that broke in to the Capitol, reports CNN.
But Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) “told reporters this week that he spoke to Trump on Jan. 6 and told him that Pence had just been rushed away from the rioters” by the Secret Service, CNN said.
“The House impeachment managers have worked to preemptively rebut the defense team’s arguments,” Politico says.
“They really believe that the logical conclusion of the law is that a president who has lost an election can incite mob violence, can direct his followers to ransack the Capitol, to stop the peaceful transfer of power and there is nothing the United States Senate can do about it,” a senior aide to the impeachment managers told Politico.
The trial was adjourned for the day at about 6:30 P.M. EST. A verdict was expected to come as early as Saturday afternoon.